Early in December, Fortnite developer Epic Games launched an online video game store. On Friday, voice and text chat app Discord revealed it will launch its own online store in 2019.
Both companies are undoubtedly aiming to take on Steam, and the way that they’re doing that could mean great things for everybody. Well, everybody except Steam.
Steam, developer by Valve Corporation, has been the dominant digital marketplace for video games for over a decade, and since it first began offering third-party developers to sell games on its platform in 2005, it has basically had no competition. Thus, Steam has been able to operate on the precedent that it takes 30% of revenue of all sales, because they are publishing the games after all, only recently announcing they’d drop their share down a bit if games make tens of millions of dollars (which is not super common outside of the biggest games of the year).
The Epic Games store and future Discord games store are questioning that 70/30 split, offering developers much more attractive splits. Epic Games laid out in a blog post that it would offer developers who use Unreal Engine 4 (its own engine for developers) or Unity (a very popular game engine) a more generous 88/12 split, meaning Epic Games would only take 12% of generated revenue.
Meanwhile, Discord took a look at the numbers and thought it could do better, proposing a game store that would only take 10% of revenue, leaving developers with an unheard of 90% of revenue. Discord suggests that it could push that 10% number even lower with further technology optimization.
We think developers should be able to focus on building great games and communities.
In 2019, the Discord store will allow all developers to self-publish games with a 90/10 revenue split so they can.
— Discord (@discordapp) December 14, 2018
This is some heavy competition for Steam, which has been the go-to marketplace for PC games for what feels like forever. While developer-specific platforms like Activision Blizzard’s Battle.net, Ubisoft’s Unity, and Mircrosoft’s Windows game store have certainly cut into Steam’s potential profits, they’ve never really had to deal with something like what Epic Games and Discord are doing.
A little competition like this is great for developers
The Epic Games store has already nabbed some decent partners, including getting Ashenand Super Meat Boy Forever ahead of Steam. It’s no wonder why, really, when developers get to make more money per sale with Epic Games.
The worry for some developers with going on Epic Games’ store is that it just doesn’t have the audience that Steam has. Luckily, Epic Games already has a decent PC audience thanks to the popularity of Fortnite, so it’s not exactly lost in the fog.
Discord has the potential to be even more disruptive because it already has almost 200 million users, which is a whole lot of people. Meanwhile, in early 2018 Steam had 125 million registered users.
If Discord manages to get some exclusives with big games in 2019, it could really cut into Steam’s market.
To combat this, Steam will likely have to give developers a better deal than what they’re currently getting. While some users harbor loyalty to Steam, they’ll surely buy games through Discord or the Epic Games store if that’s the only place they can get them.
A little competition like this is great for developers, especially in the indie space where people may not have the support systems (read: salaries) that developers at large corporations have.
This competition could also lead to more sales, which is great for the folks who are spending their money through these stores.
Although unlikely, there’s the possibility that Steam does absolutely nothing and gamers slowly drift away to better platforms, leaving Steam in the dust. But realistically, Steam isn’t going down without a fight.
2019 should be an interesting year for the PC gaming marketplace.